Disclaimer: this isn’t a surefire way to win NaNo. Definitely not a winner’s formula. But after participating the last eight years, I’ve compiled some tips.
Plan. You may be a complete panster when it comes to writing (panster = someone who doesn’t plan, but flies by the seat of their pants). I always was. But I’m also a slow writer, and I have a lot of distractions. Those are the main reasons I didn’t come close to the word count goal the first six years. Planning even the roughest of outlines helps keep you on track.
Write now, edit later. The other reason I struggled to make the word count goal is my incorrigible habit of re-reading too much. Don’t get me wrong: re-reading is good. Editing is good. But the idea of NaNoWriMo is to push yourself to just focus on writing, and to write every day. Once you make the goal, and NaNo is over, then re-read.
Procrastination is not your friend! Life is busy, so schedule time to write, cut down distractions, and work toward your goal! Sometimes we writers procrastinate when we get to a difficult scene. We’re not sure how to write it, or what the outcome should be, or how to tie it in with the overall plot. Whatever the case, it gives us a hard time. My strategy is to skip the scene, write what comes easier, then go back to the difficult scenes later. It’s not for everyone. But, this approach has helped me make the word count goal the last two Novembers.
Don’t obsess over word count. What? It’s all about word count. This is true. But if you spend too much time obsessing over word count, you will spend less time actually writing. Start writing, let the story and the characters guide you, get lost in it, and next thing you know, you’ve written another thousand words and you didn’t check after every sentence. To be honest, I’m terrible at following this particular piece of advice. I update my word count very often.
Research is important. But I’m still on the fence about how important it is during NaNoWriMo. In my opinion, research either before or after. If you want to be really prepared, research during your planning stage. But I find that I don’t always know what details I need to research until I’m actually writing. So for NaNo novels, I research later. It takes up a lot of time, so to make the word count goal, I save a lot of my research for when NaNoWriMo is done. Sounds backwards, but all it really means is that I’ll have some editing to do—something I’d be doing anyway!
Thinking about joining NaNoWriMo? Go for it! Whether you make the goal or not, it’s fun, inspiring, and a great challenge for new and experienced writers.